Highlights from this year’s Omnichannel Retail Summit, hosted by Retail Bulletin.
Omnichannel. Or is it ‘Multichannel’? How about ‘A Single View of the Customer’?
Many buzzwords within the industry are used to describe what is essentially understanding customer behavior across all shopping channels to deliver the best possible experience from start to finish.
Connecting that customer journey is gold dust for retailers. Whether its increasing brand loyalty, boosting acquisition and retention or driving sales, the omnichannel experience (when done correctly) has the potential to be transformative for a business.
In order to truly understand the intent and preferences of customers, their offline and online interactions with a brand should not exist separately, but rather work together, with data being the foundation that allows customers to have seamless (and accurate) interactions with that brand.
Of course, this is easier said than done.
As the title suggests, this year’s Omnichannel Retail Summit, hosted by The Retail Bulletin focused on ‘How Omnichannel Investment is Driving the Future of Businesses’. With a lineup of fantastic leaders from the wider retail industry, the day-long event included lively interactive panels and thought leadership presentations all centered around ‘providing the best ‘total’ retail experience’.
My key learnings from the event include the following:
1) Retailers are Beginning to Focus on Strong Interactive Experiences
Stefan Schmidhammer, IT Retail Innovation Manager at Swarovski spoke extensively about their “Sparkle Pop Up” in Milan and Toronto, which didn’t have any physical products for sale.
The concept was based around a virtual try-on stand which launched at the end of 2017. Customers could virtually try on jewellery to then buy and have fun with selfie screens and Snapchat style interactions. Apparently, it is very difficult to replicate the sparkle from Swarovski products on screen, so they spent some time perfecting this.
While it is undoubtedly exciting to see businesses experimenting with new ways of interacting with their customers, it is a little unclear how these experiences create value and deliver on a businesses KPI’s. These kind of experiments also strike me as being difficult to measure in terms of the ROI.
2) Don’t Be Scared of Data - Be Excited About What It Can Do For You
Retailers have an abundance of data, however not all of it will be useful and there is bound to be data sparsity in areas concerning the customer (for example capturing attitudinal data and personal preferences). Where the challenge lies is how to package this data into a useful and insightful format that helps better decision making.
Andrew Mann, Vice President Insight, Pricing & Digital CRM at Asda firmly believes that you should always point your business strategy towards where the organisation (and ultimately the customer) wants to go. Data can help you do this in 4 ways:
- Transformational Understanding of the Business - Getting to know your business inside out and better than anyone else.
- Delivering the Most Relevant, Inspirational Messaging - Clever storytelling which makes sure people see the most relevant stories for them.
- Creation of New Services - Building new experiences that didn’t exist previously
- Creation of Stronger Communities - Ensuring people in the business and customers feel part of something
His example of Disney’s “Magic Band” (essentially a tracking device!) to help manage your stay at the resort was a particularly good way of showcasing how brands are using tech in new ways to delight and fulfil expectations of great customer service.
In short, his top tips for implementing omnichannel solutions were to focus on the customer, be best friends with your IT team (I wholeheartedly agree!), and most importantly within the business culture, don’t pass down the fear of using data intelligently.
3) Omnichannel in 2018 has an Entirely New Meaning
The term omnichannel alludes to retailers being organised into channels, and therefore silos. This is still largely the case for most retailers, which further emphasises the need for innovation to facilitate an end-to-end brand experience.
Furthermore, everybody talks about putting the customer right at the centre and working from there, but how do you ensure everyone in your business is on board and makes this a priority? Kate Franklin former Group Marketing & Omnichannel Director, Cotswold Outdoor says that culture in an organisation is crucial - all the top decision makers need to look at the end to end customer journey together, and realise how their decisions could affect or ultimately benefit each other.
Speaking of customer journeys, Peter Scott, former President, Sprint Inc Dixons Carphone, further highlighted how the devil is in the detail - breaking a customer journey down step by step, and finding the sales opportunities, barriers and pain points is crucial. This might seem obvious, but at a time when great customer experiences are pivotal to success, this isn’t something that can be overlooked. He also added that this is a good exercise to do to identify where the measuring opportunities are. After all, its all about testing!
4) Embrace New Tech, But Don’t Let It Become a Barrier
When implementing new technology, Ian McBeth, former Head of IT, Furniture Village is adamant that businesses need to do something practical that has real commercial value. It is easy to get caught up in potentially gimmicky clienteling experiences and VR, but essentially, retailers need to find a solution that suits their business and what they are trying to deliver to the customer.
Martin Newman, Non-Executive Director, White Stuff made an important point that in the past, retailers used to hold all the power and customers had limited choice. Now, customers have far too much choice, enabling lots of disruptors to come in. Retailers, therefore, need to rethink how they use their stores, and embrace what he likes to call “Customer Centric Transformation”. In his opinion, there are two main points of friction in stores: 1) Checkout 2) Changing Rooms. Prioritising pain points such as these and making them more seamless is key in his opinion.
For Steve Gray, Director, SG Retail, loyalty programmes are a great way to join online and instore data, enabling you to get that 360-degree view of the customer. Gaining real-time stock information using RFID tagging is another way fashion retailers can use tech effectively.
I was glad when Tony Brown, CEO, Beales Department Stores brought us crashing back down to earth with a reminder that ultimately it’s all about the product! It’s easy to lose sight of this, but if retailers spend the time creating products that perfectly fit what their customer wants to buy, then you’ve solved half the problem.
In summary, digital experiences that hold the customer at its heart and provide truly helpful and delightful experiences, are those that will win. It was evident from the event that retailers are coming under increasing pressure to innovate and stay ahead, which fits perfectly with my favourite quote of the day from the brilliant Kate Franklin, who quite rightly said, “Customers are moving faster than the retailers - so keep up!”